Georgian and Azerbaijani law enforcement officers held a meeting near the disputable territory of the David Gareji Monastery yesterday to discuss the incident that took place between locals and Azerbaijani border guards on July 14.
According to media reports, an altercation between locals and Azerbaijani border guards erupted after the latter took the icons out of the Udabno caves located on the disputable territory and handed them over to the Georgian border guards. Locals demanded the return of icons to their previous location.
Teimuraz Kupatadze, deputy chief of the Georgian Border Police, told reporters after the meeting that the icons placed in the Udabno caves were being damaged by rain and wind. According to him, the Azerbaijani side explained that to avoid blaming Azerbaijani border guards for damaging the icons, it was decided to hand them over to their Georgian counterparts.
Georgian and Azerbaijani counterparts also discussed the issue of restricting movement on the disputable section of the border. Teimuraz Kupatadze noted that the restriction imposed on the movement after the yesterday’s incident would last for several days. “In coming days, the situation will return to its previous frames and citizens, prayers and tourists will enjoy freedom of movement on the territory,” he added.
The Georgian Interior Ministry confirmed early today that “a small incident took place” on the David Gareji section of the Georgian-Azerbaijani border, but added that “the situation was defused soon.”
“Let’s enable the delimitation commission to work in a calm atmosphere to reach an agreement duly,” the Interior Ministry said.
Lack of agreement on where the border between the two countries passes came into a sharp focus in the end of April, when Azerbaijani border guards restricted access to parts of David Gareji Monastery. Although the restrictions were soon lifted, activists and local residents, as well as some nationalists rallied, claiming Georgia’s rights to the disputed section.
The tensions further escalated on May 28 and Georgian Orthodox clerics, their parish, ordinary citizens and civil rights activists held another rally.
Two thirds of the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan has been agreed. One third of the border, where David Gareji Monastery is located, has yet to be agreed.
For more background, follow our tag on David Gareji.